Max Perkins: The Legendary Scribner’s Editor

Steve Newman Writer
5 min readApr 15, 2021

Max first met Fitzgerald in the army…

Perkins. Image:

After high school Max, like generations of Perkins’ before him, went to Harvard, and his best friend there — who arrived a year after Max — was Van Wyck Brooks, who was to become America’s greatest literary historian, with a string of hugely popular, and readable books, such as ‘The World of Washington Irving’, ‘New England Indian Summer’, and, ‘The Times of Melville and Whitman’, books that changed how America looked at its own literature forever — in fact made that literature known to the world. The friendship between these two young men — who both came from the same town — was such that each inspired in the other a love of great writing, a love that was to be a source, not only of an income for both, but a means by which America discovered its own literary past, and its continuing literary power in the 20th century.

Max graduated from Harvard in June 1907 with an Honourable Mention for his work in Economics — a skill he never used when it came to giving much needed advances to authors — and was the only one of his year who did not celebrate his graduation with a world tour.

Instead, Max got himself a job as an ‘emergency’ journalist at the New York Times, and would invariably sit through the night waiting for suicides, or fires, and then write-up the bare bones of the story for another journalist to fill-out, usually with fictional juicy details. For this he was paid $15 a week. After a few months of good solid work he was moved to police and court reporting, and covered everything from murders in Chinatown to rent strikes on the Lower East Side. In due course he was promoted to the paper’s general staff and scooped the city with his story of the S.S. Republic going aground off Nantucket Light.

By the winter of 1909 Max was looking for work with more regular hours (he was also courting Louise Saunders and needed a regular job to ensure she’d marry him) and applied for job after job.

In the autumn of 1910 he wrote to Scribner’s applying for the position of advertising manager, and was hired in December 1910.

On December 31st he and Louise married in Plainfield’s Holy Cross Episcopal Church, with a honeymoon in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Steve Newman Writer

Playwright and Freelance Writer…